|Michael S. Russo||
Although I have taught approximately 20 different classes during my years as a teacher, there are a few that are a constant part of my professional repertoire. As you can see, I've moved away from teaching traditional philosophy classes, and in recent years have begun to apply philosophical methods to more contemporary areas -- creativity, persuasion, happiness, and leadership in particular. These topics are more interesting for me as an academic and are also more engaging for students.
The Philosophy of Happiness
As far as I'm concerned, there's only one real philosophical question: is human happiness possible and, if so, how is it to be attained? (Ok, that's actually two questions, but they're intimately related.) My Ancient Wisdom for Modern Minds course grew out of the work I did on my dissertation, which was focused on the problem of happiness in late antiquity. The course examines the ideas of the greatest thinkers of the ancient world on the question of human happiness and relates their approaches to our complex lives in the 21st century.
The second part of my exploration of the problem of human happiness. This course, however, is focused on eastern approaches to attaining happiness or enlightenment. We explore the four great Hindu yogic traditions--Jnana, Bhakti, Karma, and Raja yoga--and the three great Buddhist traditions--Zen, Vipassana, and Tibetan Buddhism--to find out what these traditions have to tell us about the possibility of attaining happiness in a world filled with suffering. Regular weekly meditative practice will be included as part of the course
Introduction to Ethics
Anyone who isn't into ethics, really doesn't understand what ethics is all about. In ethics we study some of the most compelling aspects of human behavior in an attempt to discover general principles that can aid us in our moral decision-making. Ethics is what we do every day of our lives and the ethical system we choose to live by defines our characters--for better or for worse. I've been teaching ethics, in one form or another for over 25 years and I never grow tired of it!
Philosophy and the Creative Experience
The catalog description: "This course offers a practical, step-by-step introduction to the philosophical study of the creative experience. Students will examine various theories of creativity as they have been developed by influential philosophers, psychologists, and artists in the field of creativity studies and will have the opportunity to examine how these theories are exemplified in the lives of some of the great creative visionaries of the past half-century." Throughout the semester, we do lots of writing (poetry, biographical prose, and flash fiction), some photography, and put it all together into a creative self-portrait in hardcover--all in an attempt to unveil the unique and fascinating individual that is YOU!
Rhetoric: The Art of Persuasion
Here's the catalogue description: "A study of classical and contemporary theories of rhetoric with an emphasis on those skills and techniques necessary to argue effectively. RECOMMENDED for Phil. Majors and Pre-Law."
How boring can you get! I prefer; "How to persuade anyone of anything at any time." Now that's the makings of an exciting course!
Gotham: The New York Experience
A field study of the greatest city in the world. We have only 7 classes (8 hours each), but our aim is to suck the marrow out of New York, experiencing amazing sights that you probably didn't even know existed (e.g., 5 Pointz: The Institute for Higher Burnin'). From the latin delights of East Harlem to the seedy charms of the Bowery, by the time you finish this course, you will know New York City like an old friend or exotic lover.
Philosophy of Leadership
This is another one of those courses that I have been teaching forever, but that I really love to teach. The course explores the qualities and traits of an effective leader, using a philosophical and historical approach to the subject. This course is highly experiential and most of the work in it takes place within leadership teams. If you don't like hands-on learning and have a problem working with others, this course probably isn't the ideal one for you.
The Problems of Philosophy
Everything you always wanted to know about the "big problems" of philosophy, but were afraid to ask. The problems of philosophy is a MOOC--that is, a massive open, online course. When it's completed anyone, anywhere in the world, will be able to access the course content just the way a student registered for the class is able to. It's called "democratizing higher education" and I definitely all into that!
I consider Environmental Ethics one of the most important courses that any college student can take. How could I not: we are at a crossroads now in terms of how much potentially irreversible damage we are doing to our planet's ecosystems. This couse, which I have been teaching for over a decade now, examains some of the problems threatening our planet, but more importantly offers students some concrete steps that individuals and communities could take to live much more sustainably.